March 16, 2015

It Happened on March 16th

Lawrence Oates: "A very gallant gentleman."

Lawrence Oates Steps Outside, 1912
Lawrence Oates was a member of Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole, and his heroism is legendary. 

Oates was taken on by Scott primarily for his skill with horses, and was assigned the task of taking care of the ponies that were taken on the expedition. (He may also have been accepted because of his financial contribution of ₤1,000 -- worth about ₤50,000 in today's money.) 

Scott and 15 other men, including Oates, formed the Terra Nova Expedition that set off for the South Pole on November 1, 1911. Oates was part of the five-man team headed by Scott that walked the final 167 miles to the Pole. When they got there, they discovered that Roald Amundsen had beaten them there by 35 days.
Setting out to return to their base camp, the explorers encountered great difficulties. One of the team members, Edgar Evans, fell into a crevasse and injured his head. He died several days later, probably as a result of that fall. The remaining men continued, becoming steadily weaker. 

Oates was the worst-off of the team. His feet were severely frostbitten, and he may have also been suffering from an old war wound that had been aggravated by scurvy. In order to make it to their pre-deposited stores of food in time to avoid starving, they needed to make progress of about nine miles per day. Oates's condition was holding them back to about three miles per day. 

Oates asked the men to leave him behind in his sleeping bag, but they refused. On the morning of March 16th, Oates told the men, "I am just going outside and may be some time." The temperature outside the tent was forty degrees below zero. Oates didn't bother putting his boots on. 

Oates's sacrifice did not save the lives of the rest of the party, however. They made it another twenty miles and then were stopped by a fierce blizzard. By the time it subsided enough for them to carry on, they were too weak to walk. They died 11 miles short of their destination. 

Oates with the expedition's ponies
Lawrence Oates's body has never been found. A search party built a cairn near the spot where he is believed to have died, with the inscription, "Hereabouts died a very gallant gentleman, Captain L. E. G. Oates, of the Inniskilling Dragoons. In March 1912, returning from the Pole, he walked willingly to his death in a blizzard, to try and save his comrades, beset by hardships." 

Ferdinand Magellan Reaches the Philippines, 1521
Ferdinand Magellan is another intrepid explorer who met an unfortunate end. As you may remember from your history classes, it was Magellan's expedition that was the first to circumnavigate the globe -- Magellan himself didn't actually make it. 

Landing on Homonhon in the Philippines on March 16th, Magellan made friends with the local leader, Rajah Humabon, and baptized both him and his queen as Christians. 

Ferdinand Magellan
Magellan also wished to baptized another leader, Datu Lapu-Lapu, of the nearby island of Mactan. (Or perhaps to kill him, as he was an enemy of Rajah Humabon.) Whatever Magellan's motives, there was no question how Lapu-Lapu felt about Magellan. A group of natives surrounded Magellan's landing party, and attacked Magellan with bamboo spears and cutlasses. Magellan was killed, and what remained of his crew eventually returned to Spain. 

Magellan started out on his voyage with a crew of about 237 men: Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, Germans, English, Flemish, and Greeks. Only 18 men out of the original 237 returned. 

Samoset Greets the Pilgrims, 1621
Samoset was the first Native American to greet the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony. It was Samoset who introduced them to Squanto. 

"Welcome, Englishmen. My name is Samoset," were reportedly his first words to the settlers. The settlers gave him water and biscuit (he had asked for beer), butter, cheese, and mallard. That night they lodged him at Stephen Hopkins' house. Two days later he returned to the settlement with Squanto, who spoke better English. 

The Stephen Hopkins who offered overnight accommodations to Samoset was what the Pilgrims referred to as one of "The Strangers" -- that is, he was not of their religious faith. Hopkins had been hired to assist the Pilgrims in their attempt to settle a new land. He served as assistant to the governor for 15 years. 

It's possible that this Stephen Hopkins was the same Stephen Hopkins who had sailed on the Sea Venture, a ship that was shipwrecked on Bermuda while attempting to get to Jamestown. While on Bermuda, Hopkins attempted to start a mutiny, and was at one time was sentenced to execution. He was freed after pleading that his death would be the ruin of his wife and children. 

The Gumby Show Premieres, 1957
Wow. I had no idea that Gumby had been around that long. Gumby was the creation of Art Clokey and his wife, Ruth. The Clokeys produced their first stop motion clay animation film in 1953, a three-minute film called Gumbasia -- sort of a parody of Fantasia featuring lumps of clay moving to music. 

Clokey later used his technique to produce short films featuring the Gumby character, the first of which were test-marketed by NBC on The Howdy Doody Show. Over the years, Gumby has enjoyed a 35-year career and has starred in 233 episodes. 

Gumby's simple shape was determined by the need for a design that that was simple, and yet could hold up for hours of placement and replacement under film lights. The familiar bump on Gumby's head was inspired by a photo of Clokey's father as a young man when he had a huge cowlick on the side of his head.

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